Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The End of the RAF

Is the end in sight for the world's first and most famous independent air arm? From the UK Telegraph:

At sea, air defence is the job of the Fleet Air Arm. On land,
although the
Army has ground-to-air missiles for close defence, and naval
provide cover in maritime expeditionary operations, it is the job of
RAF. Only territorial air defence, which these days means the United Kingdom
(even Nato commitments have been curtailed), is a separate, independent
function, though, as in 1918, its importance should not be
The superb but ruinously expensive Eurofighter is billed
as multi-role, but it is first and foremost an air-defence fighter for
combat with the Soviet air force. None of this would matter much if the
three Services were properly funded. As one of Louis XII's marshals
baldly told that great military adventurer: "To make war, three things are
necessary: money, money and yet more money." Five centuries on, nothing has
changed, so if Gordon Brown will not provide more money, he must either not
make war or else decide unequivocally where we are to take the strategic

I see the USAF headed in this direction. More often in recent years we see the budget funding fewer and fewer high capacity, low affordability planes. The numbers have been shrinking every decade since airpower's high tide in World War 2. With so many American planes reaching the end of their lifespans, soon we will have a hollow air force unless something drastic occurs.

My own idea would be to purchase cheap airplanes off the shelf, especially geared towards close air support and counter-insurgency (COIN). More likely, with Air Force leadership so adamant against warfare off the shelf, the airmen's traditional functions will be displaced by unmanned aerial vehicles sometime in the near future.

My favorite part of this article is:

But where, other than perhaps in the mind of the Prime Minister,
unencumbered with military reality, is this priority to current operations? "We
will continue to favour capability over quantity," he says. But for the Army,
the infantry in particular, quantity is capability: you cannot make up for a cut
in the number of regiments, and a shortfall in manpower, with high-tech
And you certainly can't if the equipment is late into

Same could be said for the USAF's long-delayed Raptor and F-35 warplanes.